Each year, the U.S. Green Building Council announces the Top 10 States for LEED green building. For the first time since 2011, Colorado took the top spot on the list, which ranks states based on the number of LEED-certified square feet per person. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the most widely used green building rating system in the world with more than 100,000 projects engaged. 

Each of these 10 states are leading the way in creating a higher living standard for those who live in, work in, and visit their state. But the work that goes into this transformation doesn’t happen overnight — it takes individual efforts, collectively, to make this kind of progress.

Minnesota earned a spot in this year’s top 10 ranking because of the leadership demonstrated by the individuals working to make that difference. Our Living Standard campaign teaches that by taking steps as individuals, we can inspire others to take new and additional steps too, eventually leading to collective, large-scale change. 

Kevin Bright, Energy and Sustainability Director for the City of Rochester, MN, is one such individual working to make a difference. While his contributions to Minnesota’s green building footprint are immense (Rochester is an early adopter of LEED for Cities!), he didn’t begin his career planning to become a sustainability champion. 

As an Audubon camper, Kevin grew up loving — and protecting — nature. He channeled that passion into helping green spaces flourish, but not in the way you might expect. He turned his focus to green buildings and their intersection with nature, helping schools make that same connection at Harvard University and Colby College. Now, he’s on to bigger challenges, like helping Rochester and its residents make strides toward a greener, healthier future.

This story is part of our Living Standard “Storigins” sub-campaign, which highlights the origin stories of sustainability champions. Through these stories, we hope to encourage others to think about their own Storigins, why they were first inspired to act, and how their own unique backgrounds can help solve today’s mounting environmental obstacles.

Everyone starts from somewhere. And as our incremental actions build over time and multiply, they can lead to something great. Minnesota certified 25 LEED projects in 2019, representing 2.4 square feet of LEED-certified space per resident — in no small part thanks to the efforts of leaders like Kevin. When we share our stories, we can inspire action in others. After all, everyone has a story to tell. Today, take one action and share your story with us as we work to build a safer, healthier, and more equitable future for all.